snow globe
I’m one of those people who not only needs a kick in the pants to make a drastic change, but I also need a swirly, a wedgie, and to be shoved in a locker and left over night until the janitor finds me the next day. I changed my major several times as an undergrad and each one was punctuated with hysterical sobbing phone calls to my dad during which I declared I wanted to give up on everything. I started my second master’s degree eight months after a devastating breakup. I started taekwondo two months after a string of dating humiliations and failures. Pursuing the MBA and returning to taekwondo were among my top 5 Best Decisions of My Life Thus Far and were decisions made with a mix of both impulsiveness and calculated determination. Decisions, choices, moves, whatever you want to call them, each event dramatically changed the trajectory of my life.

  1. Changed my graduate school major to Library Science – I had just graduated with an oh-so lucrative degree in English with no internships and little more than clerical work experience. I had no freaking idea of what I wanted to do so I just put off life by going to graduate school. I like to write so I thought I’d try journalism. The journalism majors I met seemed like arrogant yet dorky combinations of English and theater majors…think about it for a second and it will make sense. I was never as eager or as hungry as my classmates. Then 9/11 happened. I realized that I didn’t want to be that close to the action, so after panicking and dropping my journalism classes I changed my major to library science and started a new career.
  2. Accepted a job at the company where I now work — Ten years ago I was working for a major oil company right as I was finishing the MLS degree. I was gaining great experience and will always be grateful to that company for that…but it was getting old. It was the most lonely place I’d ever worked, and this is coming from an introvert. “Something’s got to give,” I thought and began sending out resumes. Right when I had given up I received an unexpected phone call from my soon-to-be new manager.  I was young and dumb and didn’t realize how fortunate I was to get a job with a nice benefits and retirement package plus exactly the direction I wanted to go in my career–medical librarianship. Thankfully lucky stars were watching out for my dumb ass.
  3. Got an MBA – Kind of an impulsive decision, but it helped boost my career and get me to item #4. I had gone through a devastating breakup with someone I had hitched all my hopes and dreams to–never a good idea. He was in the process of pursuing an MBA, something I’d never given thought to before.  I did not go all Elle Woods and follow him to his school; I’m not a stalker. I am thankful though that he indirectly put the idea in my brain. I was also starting to get a little stagnant in my career. I “saw the writing on the wall,” as they say and didn’t see much room for change or growth in my department. I went for it and slogged through three-and-a-half years of very long weekdays and driving home in the dark. I wasn’t that great of a student and knew I’d never truly be a “business” person, but thanks to the MBA and other factors I was able to snag a job within the same company in a new department and new industry with many more opportunities to grow professionally and financially.
  4. Bought a house – This was also an impulsive decision but was grounded in such an odd sense of calm and resolution that I’m not sure if the inspiration to do it came from me or a greater source. My parents had moved from my childhood home and their residence of thirty years, which was very emotional for all of us. During that summer I had given up on two very toxic people in my life. It was an emotional year. I was ready for a fresh start and a new phase in my life. I was okay with renting if I didn’t find the right place–I was very much in the law of attraction / letting go groove that fall. One night in my dreadfully boring finance class I was playing with a home finder app. “Okay,” I thought, “That’s it. I want a condo or townhouse in THIS neighborhood under THIS amount. If I can’t find it I’ll stay in my apartment.” That night I found an adorable little place in my dream neighborhood, and it had only been on the market for four days. There weren’t even pictures online yet. That weekend my realtor and I put in a bid. I’m typing this from my little dream home right now.
  5. Started taekwondo after a 22 year hiatus — My head wasn’t screwed on right in early 2013. I’d had a string of breakups with men who weren’t right for me in the first place. I let them carry my fragile hopes and dreams and since that of course wasn’t their responsibility, the pieces slipped through their fingers and shattered. I was a wreck and felt like a huge loser and a failure. Most evenings were spent in tears. I wanted to immerse myself in something good and healthy, something that was purely for me and no one else. TKD had always been in the back of my mind. I just needed a shove to go through with it. Next year I’ll test for my black belt.

It often takes a tragedy for people to soften their hearts towards each other. (Remember how nice and helpful everyone was for a month or so after 9/11? It didn’t last but still…) It often takes a swift kick in the pants or a scrape along the sticky floor of “rock bottom” for people to get their act together and make positive changes in their lives. I’m a little sad that it took being pushed to my emotional breaking point to make such dramatic and positive changes in my own life. Sometimes it takes learning lessons the hard way to motivate us to change.

I’m currently in a stressful place in my life. Last night in class I nearly teared up with the frustration of learning my new form. The form wasn’t really the problem as much as the threat of my little snow globe of a life being shaken up again. Two of the closest people in my life have opportunities to move on to bigger and better things. I am watching them grow and wondering if I am doing the right thing or I have become comfortable in a gilded cage. Things are going to get emotionally tough very soon. My life is going to be shaken up. I am prompted to deal with it through starvation and sleeping pills, which isn’t a bad way to combat holiday eating. Giving in to the pain is actually quite comforting–you don’t have to think. But that will keep me in a helpless state of despair, and once again I’ll reach my breaking point. What will it prompt me to do? Make a major change? Maybe. Or it might encourage me to be more present in my fears and ambitions, to let go of some of the worries that grip my throat and punch me in the kidneys. I don’t know what’s going to happen. If I can just make it to class next week I’ll be okay.

3 thoughts on “Breakdown or Breakthrough: Five Life-Changing Decisions I Made When I Was Feeling Like Crap

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